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Old 01-13-2008, 02:47 PM
419 posts, read 1,860,925 times
Reputation: 376


My father, who remembers "the good old days," tells me there is no better indication of the fall of America than a drive through many of the small towns in America. He is not talking about small towns connected with big metro areas but small independent communities that try to have their own economy. He does alot of driving around now that he is retired and is shocked how bad the typical small town in America has slid in the last 20 years.

Many small towns seem to have more poor trashy people living there than the worst part of the inner city. Property values are dropping and the jobs are drying up. Most residents of the new American small town is either retired or driving vast distances to work in the larger cities. In many cases people are driving almost 100 miles so they can live cheaply. My Dad believes, what is left in many American small towns is mostly rednecks and uneducated folks- without many skills or self respect. He and I can not get over how trashy looking many of the people look in many small towns today.

Mayberry North Carolina, where everyone wore suits and ties to church is a long time ago.

What are your thoughts about the health of American small towns?

Old 01-13-2008, 02:57 PM
Location: Southeast Missouri
5,812 posts, read 16,836,386 times
Reputation: 3348
I live in a pretty small city. It's not doing great, but I haven't noticed any sudden change over the last few years. It's always been pretty small, though.
Old 01-13-2008, 04:20 PM
Location: Sacramento, CA
1,196 posts, read 4,374,126 times
Reputation: 606
I don't know much, but I remember driving from Denver to Wichita, and it seemed like most of the towns had healthy strip malls on the freeway for motorists, but the towns actual business/commercial centers were mostly abandoned. I think a lot of what you say is true, and will likely get worse. People will continue to move to the cities and suburbs.
Old 01-13-2008, 05:27 PM
Location: Austin, TX
1,528 posts, read 5,762,399 times
Reputation: 642
I think your father is confusing what he saw when he was younger. What is never there is what is always missed. The Past is missed in his case, small towns were never that rich. Your father lived back in a time where if you didn't go to church people gasped, or if you went in jeans and a tee-shirt, and that is not today... not saying it is not right, but you do what you want to do, don't change everyone to make YOU happy. Change has happened, Small towns never had much money to begin with, there economy is small so they generate a relatively small amount of income. Not much has changed, if anything small towns are getting better. Cities are growing and small towns will maintain a stable population, but as time progresses cities are 'where it is going to be at'.
I personally think your father just simply misses the past.
Old 01-13-2008, 07:01 PM
Location: Nebraska
4,247 posts, read 7,377,927 times
Reputation: 6769
I think you are going to see a huge migration of baby boomers to small towns. The boomers who went to the Coasts and had good paying jobs are going to want to leave the rat race of big city living. Many of these boomers will never be able to adjust to living in "Mayberry" and they will stay put where they are but the biggest percentage of them will be heading for smaller towns and slower paced lives.

In a way this return of the boomers to small communities may be good for the younger folks. The boomers that were paupers in NYC, Boston, L.A., San Francisco etc. will find that their dollars can buy a lot more in the small community. They will have money to hire the mechanics, carpenters and other service jobs that the younger folks had to move to the big city to find previously. The boomers that just have to see the latest Broadway Show, big city Museums and so on will find that a short drive to a regional airport and a flight into and out of the big cities will not cost too much more than it did when they lived there but had to put up with the aggravation of city living.

When they discover the local cuisine that is better tasting than anything they had in the big city for 1/10th of the price. . . watch out.

Old 01-13-2008, 08:16 PM
Location: CasaMo
15,587 posts, read 7,662,437 times
Reputation: 17159
I think it also depends on the part of the country the town is in that has the influence on the health and what questioner2 and GL2 both said sort of ties together. The ones that have had some of the boomers retire there have improved, and the ones without have not done well. Along with cost of living, there is the amenities factor and overall climate. I would venture to say small towns in North Carloina would be better off in that regard than say, small towns in North Dakota.
Old 01-13-2008, 08:40 PM
Location: Western North Carolina
5,039 posts, read 8,028,687 times
Reputation: 10809
I lived in a small "Mayberry" like town in North Carolina for 10 years, and in just those ten years saw exactly what the original poster is talking about. Yeah, "slow-paced" life alright, such an overused clique. "Dead" pace of life is more like it. The "pace" of life is still the pace of the 21st century no matter where you live, there is no going back in time to those "simpler" times. They're gone - for good. Once the last decent manufacturing jobs left the small town I was in, and the Super-Walmart came in down the street, the only people left in the small town were the poor, trapped retired people whose homes were paid off and they couldn't afford to go anywhere else, the people on welfare who don't depend on jobs for their income, and the drug dealers and bums sleeping on the benches outiside the prettily landscaped "historic" courthouse building. All the little stores and bisinesses in the town were boarded up, and the only business left was the Chamber of Commerce and the town bank, both desperately trying to breathe life back into a small town that was dead. This particular small town now has one of the highest crime rates per capita in the country. And all of this, just an hours drive from Charlotte. Who wants to live in a small town like that and then have to face a difficult commute everyday just to hold down a job? That's not a "slower pace of life", that's a hassle! When the manufacturing jobs went, the town died a little more every day, and it negatively affecting everything. Except, I guess, the Super Walmart. That's what the original poster is describing, and they are absolutely right. If I sound angry about what's happened to small town America, you're right! What a crying shame! And by the way, I would venture to say that small towns in North Dakota probably have a MUCH LOWER CRIME RATE than some of North Carolina's small towns. The weather is probably more brutal, though.
Old 01-13-2008, 11:35 PM
Location: Maryland
266 posts, read 819,172 times
Reputation: 217
We've done a lot of driving around the West recently, and for some reason, the small towns in the West seem more economically depressed (and depressing) to me than the ones in the East. I think because they are more isolated from larger cities. It seems in the East, everything is so close together, most small towns are within a few hours drive to a large city. I think one poster is right in saying that many of the boomers are retiring to small towns; however--and this is a total guess--I'd say that's a stronger trend in the East than the West for the very reason I named above. My parents moved to and ended up retiring in a very nice and growing small town in South Carolina. When they need big city culture or an airport, they have several cities they can drive to in just two or three hours.

I also think many young couples and families are trying to move to small towns for a quieter life and cheaper living. I know two families who did this recently. One sold their house in the DC area at the height of the market and bought a house in cash in a small town in PA. Another family also sold their house in the Philly exurbs at a good time and moved to a small town, also in PA. The biggest concern is jobs--the former family mentioned found themselves without work recently; the wife finally found a job she was overqualified for (and probably not making much), while the husband is still looking. In the latter family mentioned, the husband has a decent job, but you got to wonder if he ever lost it, how many options would he have?

Most small towns in this country have a long way to go to become healthy and thriving. I hope it happens, I would love to see it.
Old 01-13-2008, 11:40 PM
Location: Maryland
266 posts, read 819,172 times
Reputation: 217
Originally Posted by Gunluvver2 View Post
When they discover the local cuisine that is better tasting than anything they had in the big city for 1/10th of the price. . . watch out.
By the way, I think restaurants in small towns are way overrated! I can't tell you how many times I went into some cute-looking diner or family-run place in a small town thinking I was going to get some down-home cooking, and the food was just average to terrible. Of course there are the occasional exceptions. But most of the good restaurants are going to be in cities. You're right about the price, but can't agree with you on quality!
Old 01-14-2008, 05:34 AM
419 posts, read 1,860,925 times
Reputation: 376
I think the end of the manufacturing environment is one of the main reasons for the death of the small town. The only towns that seem to be making a come back are those within commuting distance of a big city. People are commuting up to 100 miles to Washington DC from places in PA and WV. This is causing these cities to grow but causes an empty culture because they are bedroom communities where people do not get home until 9PM after a 3 hour commute in bumper to bumper traffic.
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